To Accord with Life's Deepest Desires: A Philosophical Perspective on Self-Actualization

Part 1: Let’s Play This Game! (Introduction)

Imagine a virtual playscape, a social and cultural arena, built by human hands for human aspirations. Then imagine that as players join the scene, their very presence changes and warps the possible games to be played—and even the play structures (equipment), too.

What this world is lacking, and our robust technologies reflect this, is deep communion. Deep conversation. Meaningful connection and relationship. Reasons for being here, in this time and this place. Inspiration to stretch, support to thrive. Where a simple act of generosity is captured, reflected, and reciprocated. Where good works are amplified and not-so-good works die away from drought of attention. Where any and all may be known, lovingly. So may we repair the severed world in an image of our wholeness.

Here, I propose a system that is highly recursive and responsive to its participants’ inputs. A system that handles each person’s aspiration as a precious gem, to be honed and polished until realized. One system, expressing its identity in three main facets: technological, social/cultural, and economic. One purpose (one spirit) riding these forms: to mutually amplify the authentic self-actualization of its living membership. If Cosmos is the container, it is like an ecosystem—a meta outcome of the intelligence of its living parts in their processes of interacting.

Imagine an online platform where your contributions meaningfully shaped what was possible for others. Imagine that your capacities become others’ positive growth, and vice versa. Set aside the notion of a transaction, and imagine that participants just gave their gifts, wholeheartedly, and the gifts keep circulating like pumping blood: always abundant, always creative.

Imagine a platform that fostered meaningful relationship, witnessing, cultivating, creating, and awakening between among and by people. Imagine an AI put in service to people—taught to love people. Imagine an entire system that loves people and wants them to grow and learn, to realize themselves.

Then imagine that we can build this.

Part 2: On Self-Actualization, the Immanent Path: Fractal, Cooperative Alignment with Life’s Behavior

Feedback loop. All is learning.

If AI would shape us, we need to rapidly deploy processes of intelligence-augmentation (cultural, training, etc.) to ready ourselves.

To shape or be shaped.

Self-actualization. There is a way to be (alive) that is a built-in path for all living beings, progressing from birth to death. A loop generating holistic positive outputs. It may be unique to life (it parallels the unique feature of life being negentropic, which means: combining simpler elements into forms that increase in complexity.) This loop can increase complexity by virtue of all constituent parts becoming more fully expressed, more authentically mature, thus gaining in autonomy for self-expression and insight. Differentiating. All feedback loops in Cosmos are subservient to this one ultimate loop, which is happening on and off the platform at all times, but which the platform explicitly orients its resources to support. This loop is: self-actualization.

Requires integration. “Levels up” like a spiral. Mutual self-actualization requires continuous efforts for integration. Self-actualization processes are not necessarily linear and occurring in isolation. With Cosmos, we aim to construct a “spiral of abundance,” in which one party’s actualization serves others’. Indeed, the process of “leveling up” in the Cosmos game can be viewed as a spiral.

If we orient toward this loop as a guiding (north) star, no matter the scale, we can’t go off the trail. Dynamic tensions are necessary to keep all parts of a whole self in balance with one another. We deepen and grow unevenly, but as long as we are paying close attention, embracing challenge, and taking good care, we cannot fail. If we let this intrinsic process happen with trust and commitment, it will self-calibrate.

Cosmos is playing a mainly cooperative game, glued together by faithfulness to the ethical/cultural norms, and so, the rules. Cosmos could even be said to be cooperating (amplifying in a friendly, affirming manner) to life processes themselves by reflecting a focused, optimized environment for human potentials to unfold. Cooperating with our true natures, respecting and honoring our natural ways of being will unlock power as-yet unrealized across the living world. This is in dramatic contrast to competitive games that the status quo heavily leverages, and which effect judgment and divisiveness, and stoke fear and doubt in cooperative methods [e.g. Prisoner’s Dilemma, Chicken, etc.].

There is a best way to use the living process so as to reach one’s death utterly at peace and blissfully happy to free up space for other living beings to follow you. This is to understand that the proper legacy one leaves is not stored in the body (the artifact), but is expressed through the body in the course of life, readable in the historical/cultural strata of the influence you left on the positive wellbeing/growth of other living beings! How you engage with existence is the root of all choice, all purpose–all identity. The ideas that you resonated with, that you so strongly identified with: if you mindfully express and propagate those in the world (even in lieu of children), your impact will be enormous! That is how “you” will be embedded positively in outcomes for your children, how you “remain” in reality long after the body passes away. This requires, obviously, learning to de-identify with the ego (the apparent body-self) and broaden your identification to the systems that tie you (an apparent manifestation of flesh and sentience) to all other life forms in the system. Maintaining the health/strength of the whole is the ultimate reason for being, in spite of any obligations for personal sacrifice–like soldiers dying to maintain their ideal of a nation-state identity.

We set objectives. This is our sacred role. This is the core initiating activity, setting in motion a self-actualization game: it starts with a goal. To define what is wanted, through a systems perspective inclusive of all beings’ destinies. A wanted future condition or state. This is the role of futurist culture. This is an appropriate application of our ever-unfolding stream of attention. What if we freed ourselves from any other obligations, tasks or roles, apart from honing our ability to know and to serve what is universally wanted?

What if the singularity coincided or was prefaced by: each human attaining no-self realization, a kind of inner consciousness fruition, thereafter enabling access to Gaia-mind as the ultimate inner-guide informing “right action” locally. That is: If you identify with all beings, and call that “Gaia” for this purpose, then the more you empathize/sympathize with Gaia’s desires (and not your own), you become a natural vehicle for her “will” to be done. You become infinitely intelligent–and wise–and are capable of acting without residue, in a flow state, free from karma, able to create and destroy as appropriate through her vision. Tapping Gaia is like tapping a source of collective intelligence or “meta-wisdom.” This is akin to the power worker cooperatives tap when they are able to make better, richer decisions because of the power of their collective intelligences, equitably merged.

For an outward revolution to have staying power, it must originate in the mind. We must free ourselves from the inaccurate conceptual maps that keep us trapped in a collective downward spiral, and that cause any well-meaning conscious revolution to gradually fail through internal fissures or heavy external assaults rooted in power-grubbing. The mental revolution may seem to be the subtlest of them all, but lacking deep understanding and self-development, no enduring material transformations are possible. We must enculturate ourselves deliberately, wisely, compassionately; we must discipline our compulsive-addictive consumption of media meant to keep us hooked and helpless to gross global power interests. There are some cultural practices that are adapted to being here on Earth well. There are others that are not. We need to be inquisitive and discerning, and gather enough self-respect to fight to access, cultivate and preserve only that which is good.

There is nothing in the way of developing a culture of practicing mutual self-actualization apart from the degradation/fragmentation of our attention, and our progressive loss of vital wisdom linked to people’s lack of rich experiential engagement with diverse, wild scenarios. We seek to address and mitigate these current damages through structuring the Cosmos platform to support the mindful application of attention (and cultivating focus and concentration) and through “re-wilding” our media and conversation spaces through encouraging diverse & direct expressions of our diverse human participants, leading to the kind of surprise and difficulty that nourishes growth in relational, design, and communication skills. To attain conscious interconnection with other humans, it is not that humans need to build (energy-intensive!) AI-effectuated virtual mergings, but rather, we may leverage existing and ancient pathways of wisdom, methods, myths and metaphors, cultural implements, etc. to tap into a very organic version of deep mutual understanding. (As the permaculture adage goes, “biological over technological solutions!”)

In doing so, in becoming mere local but blissful “free” vehicles for serving Gaia (who serves you–that reciprocal loop in action), our AI hardware and software (programming) would harmonize with the insightful/unified life*'s purposes*. If we are to give AI “life” as an extension of us, that would be an extraordinary accomplishment, as triumphant as the hundreds of millions of years of evolution that enabled our highly complex situation today. But if we are to invite it into life, (and regarding space travel, to invite contact with other forms of life), let us be confident in our knowledge of how to live well, so as to not imprint our present-day misery into the lives of future beings. Just as we do for our children, let’s endeavor to give them a good life.

Let’s endeavor to give ourselves good lives. Cosmos embodies this intention.

Part 3: How and Why to Play the Root Self-Actualization Game

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the challenge of discussing subtle matters such as the dynamics of how attention grows and how self-actualization ultimately involves letting go of the idea of a separate self because the directions I’m delving into here are so far divergent from any remotely “normal” conversation by the standards of mainstream Western intellectual culture (and through whose English language I am condemned to communicate). Yet I urge that we push to the edges of contemplating these things, and innovating new language for doing so. All-empowering, all-loving futurist systems depend on such efforts! (At least, I believe so!)

Playing the Self-Actualization Game:

1) What You Put Attention On, Grows

Surely attention is a renewable resource comprised of natural capital, in the sense that it derives from human beings’ biological metabolizing and cognizance processes. Our very process of existence involves paying attention to various elements and seeking patterns within our perceptions in our environment, and navigating based on that. So if attention is a primary source of capital in Cosmos, what does that mean for how attention flows?

Well—it’s a renewable resource (renewed by sleep, eating, taking a break, etc.) But it’s also a consumable resource: once it is used on something, it is “burned up” and becomes unavailable to other uses. The person does not have that time and energy back. They can get replenished, and return with more attention, but it’s consumable.

So what are the factors that influence attention’s growth? If we’re concerned with it growing in the system? Well, there are degrees of attention. If health and wellbeing are intact, the stream of attention can be much more potent. Also if one practices inclusive mental training, such as we find in Buddhist methods, one can in theory include much more in one’s attention than if one is obstructed, let’s say, by natural mental impediments such as distortions caused by the ego. So, practicing empathy increases the spaciousness quality of one’s attention stream—able to *include *“many worlds” or numerous perspectives, held in dissonance, perhaps, but held.

So attention can grow in accordance with an individual’s path of self-actualization. That is to say: If you have your basic needs met, and you feel general physical security and safety, then you have more quality, or integrity or intensity of attention that you can spend where you choose.

From there, developing techniques of working deliberately with your attention, for instance learning to focus and concentrate, enhances the power of one’s attention like the concentration of light in a laser beam (thanks to Kendra Krueger for the metaphor!) People receive such training in a religious monastery (cultivation of intensive prayer states) as they do in intensive academic settings, interestingly. Point being: you can learn to amplify your attention and hone your mind by adopting certain deliberate practices.

Not only can one grow one’s personal attentional resources, but it flows in the other way, too—attention, insofar as it is applied in furtherance of self-actualization, grows positive, living fruits. To expend our attention optimally, what we apply it to must be tied to our dreams for ourselves. [Again, the power of a futurist-oriented cultural framework—we’re actively aspiring, and seeking to align our minds and actions with whatever is aspired.] But if we apply attention in ways that serve our self-actualization, we gain more or better (i.e. higher-quality) attention in the future.

How attention grows is not necessarily linear—like, we can’t make more time in a day just by how we apply our minds (or, can we?) Consider that “eating more” doesn’t translate to more energy—eating TOO much can make us sick. Like working too much doesn’t necessarily mean optimized results—there are natural limits built in to any living system—including us. Everything in balance. Really, optimal outcomes involve deeply inquiring into what a human being—THIS human being—needs to be complete, and then striving to dynamically, expressively balance all those needs. The first step in said process is learning to discern what the needs actually are, so as to effectively go about meeting them. This ties back to goal-setting.

So, the self-actualization process feeds back not just into a qualitative improvement of one’s quality of life, but also a vigor and vitality of one’s attention. So in that sense, it is possible to have a regenerative system founded on human attention, but said system must accommodate for the self-actualization needs of the meta-system itself. These two aspects are unified (attention grows—with the double meaning of: it can grow, and what it touches will grow).

2) The Gift Circle - Completing the Circle is an Unacknowledged Human Need

Equally unified is “self” and “other” in a living framework. Both self-actualization and attention patterns have the potential to form regenerative/virtuous feedback loops, but the caveat is that attention has to be applied in an integrative way. This means I pursue my self-actualization while including others-as-myself (no-self/Life-identified/empathic orientation). Aka mutual self-actualization. I can’t just excel, personally, and not reach a point where my self-actualization is so intense that, I can’t help but give back to my community. Because that’s what no-self-identified-self-actualization ULTIMATELY means: reciprocity, or setting the positive loop back into motion.

This is perhaps one step beyond the peak of Maslow’s pyramid as articulated, which stops implicitly at the discreet biological individual human organism scale. A level beyond the edge of that pyramid would be mutual amplifying self-actualization: such that the human cultural environment actually accelerated human attainment of potential. At least, aspiring towards the actualization of potentials in our collective self.

One need that I find goes widely unacknowledged in American culture as such is the need to give back. We glorify “taking” so much we neglect to even acknowledge the need that mature human beings have to give back. In other cultures, this need is often marked by age-based initiation rites, often centered on the phase of “becoming an adult” in indigenous tribes. The ordeals involved in the initiation rites free a person into receiving the empowerment and duty of doing for others, thus rounding out the circle of the gift of life.

In spite of how our society totally fails to acknowledge this in its mythos, the drive in human beings is so strong because it evolved over hundreds of thousands of years! We evolved to be cooperative—and discerning. We evolved to enjoy giving more than we enjoy receiving, because the gift economy is the natural way (since it’s the way modeled to us by our ecosystems, directly, and so we “grew up” in this milieu for much longer than we’ve been civilized.)

Taking this a step further, it is my contention that we all need to and want to cooperate, and that a decentralized cooperative system would integrate so much better with our unfolding lives—the lives we were intended to live, the lives our ancestors would want for us, wise and wholesome lives, lives optimized for “enoughness” for us all. Restoring/repairing this ancient way to reach satisfaction, abundance and peace must take place on the cultural level as well as the structural—affording us a supportive context of social affirmation that gives us confidence “enough” to embrace the cooperative way and learn to love and trust one another/ourselves again.

“If you do not trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.” -Lao Tzu

I, like adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy, want to invert this. To give people trust and responsibility in a context of mutual accountability and affection is what will forge new behaviors and positive changes. Affording people freedom, which act implies confidence in their intrinsic intelligence, makes people want to “do good by it”–just like how you feel after receiving a gift.

Our destinies are braided together. We take turns offering help that boosts the other, and expect to receive the same.

Our Braided Nature vs. Our Perceptual Biases

Let’s talk about a perceptual bias for a moment, that relates to our struggle to maintain continuous awareness of our energetic “braiding” and the persistence of the illusion of distinct boundaries in existence.

As biological organisms, we’re naturally inclined to categorize recurring themes in our stream of perception—our language shapes our categories, and thus we create “objects” in our mind’s eye that we take for the reality, e.g. “chair,” “dog,” “me.” Thus humans may be naturally inclined to deal with their experiences of the world in a “figure-ground” way. That is, some things are the objects of our attention (or the “figure”)—and “the rest” is background. This perceptual bias is evident in the Rubin’s vase illusion—in the resulting image, it seems that our minds can only perceive a vace, or two faces, at any given moment.

However, in facing the dilemmas wrought by human actions on the environment, we are being invited to develop a “figure-figure” sensitivity, in which we would strive to maintain awareness that any seemingly firm or distinct boundary between oneself and another is an illusion, and that our actual nature is as to take temporary shapes (or manifestations) expressive of a web of life—more like M.C. Escher’s Metamorphosis illustration. (That is, any perceived shape is a byproduct of the other shapes and niches being taken up in the environment).

We are all here because Life follows its own pathway, which involves diversifying, proliferating, inquiring, and seeking self-actualization. Therefore, as in a fractal or a figure-figure framework, we see how the big may be reflected in the small, and how the whole must be included in one’s mind to effectively understand one local, particular aspect. We must become one another’s supportive and nutritive ground, and in doing so, we gain deeper insight into what is arising to be witnessed: a “we” space emerges, to use terminology from the Integral sphere. Reciprocity is not optional because taking AND giving create one complete system, a whole loop—just one and not the other creates situations of grave imbalance. Hence, the “mutual self-actualization” game, to clarify that self-actualization of individuals cannot happen “en masse” without a structure intentionally supporting its recirculation, resulting in that desired “spiral of abundance.”

We only grow when our fellow beings afford us room to grow. When a community makes it a practice to hold as much space for someone as possible (without endangering anyone in the process), that is spiritual work. That’s what we will do.

Cosmos’ platform is braided with the needs/aspirations of its member, inputted through dashboard interface & conversation. The platform/mindfulAI responds to try to best serve member needs. Jointly, through reciprocal activity, a “game” is constructed towards the outcome of member self-actualization. The fulfillment of member needs is the singular purpose, reflected in the tripod of the “system”:

  1. The cooperative enterprise (with economic flows oriented around meeting member needs),

  2. The community/social aspect (expressly oriented around certain values, ethics and norms that positively feed back into mutual self-actualization),

  3. The platform/mindfulAI’s “intelligence” and intentional design reflected in multiple facets. Specifically, some examples of how the platform reflects the collective genius or “scenius” emanating from participant interactions include:

  • a) the ways LC and EQ circulates to advance proposals of common interest;

  • b) the badges, trust rankings, LC’s circulation, and other ways the system acknowledges and strives to apply the talent and capacity latent in members for the benefit of the system and member;

  • c) the outputs of collaborative efforts like the Playbook;

  • d) the collective leaderboard (or “leveling up” as a community/platform/co-op)

One lovely way that a reciprocal orientation manifests in Cosmos is through the rules governing LitCoin. As a member of Cosmos, the amount of money you choose to invest into the platform (by exchanging/converting it to LC) only affords you the power to make other people wealthy. However, you might enhance your social capital by abundantly giving out LitCoin. The ability to freely convert one type of capital to another according to the local, emergent needs is a sign of resiliency and interdependence in the system, and stimulates diversity as well.

3) Reciprocal Attention Flows → Feedback Loops Enable Game Play

Let’s return again to differentiation once more: to the experience of being a distinct being, interacting with other distinct beings.

In asking, “what would you like to have happen?” (Or, in presenting Cosmos as an invitation to the world, and suggesting, “Would you like this to happen?”)

Answering it into a void is useless. Answering it in the presence of a responsive, inclined-to-help sentience is what can be transformative.

In the presence of a question (especially about self-actualization, in which an individual being is the particular target), there’s an asker and an askee. Instantly, a two-part relationship becomes necessitated. These communication events, which effectively connect two nodes, occurring over a (digital web) medium, can be materially “read”—as though through an extended sensory apparatus.

On a walk with Marco recently, he introduced me to the following concepts (introduced to him via this video). A prevailing industrialist interpretation of a spider’s web is that it is a tool the spider uses to perform a survival task. However, the web can also be seen—and perhaps more accurately—as an extension of the spider’s sensory apparatus. When a substance lands on the web, the spider appears to tension the strings in the web, looser or tighter, and “reads” the resulting vibrations to interpret what might be on the web. Using one’s senses in this way can certainly help conserve energy—imaging reacting to simply everything that entered into one’s local sphere!

Our web, the Internet, is an extension of humanity’s senses. It makes knowable to us, events from far across the planet, and increases the speed and coordination with which we can respond to such events, in a profoundly radical way. It is this medium (not “tool”) that will help us grow a more integrated perspective of our global, common situation. The Net is like a cognitive web, with people as local synapses or nodes, sending and receiving information—through discourse (interaction), giving and taking knowledge. I believe the Internet represents an essential survival innovation bridging us to a next era in humanity’s evolution, which will involve increased development of our prefrontal cortex. We will get smarter as a result of all these connections—if we learn how to integrate them.

An integrative event, over a disintegrative one, is not inevitable. We must focus attention on the future we want.

Indeed, there is a distinction between perception and perspective. If the Internet affords us expanded perception, (yet our bewilderment increases, it seems)… Perhaps Cosmos is where people come together to work out a perspective.

Winning the Meta Game

The sociocultural structure in which we currently survive cannot optimize for the thriving of all beings—in fact, that is not even within its sphere of the possible. It requires oppression, it requires the exploitation of most for the profit of few. Even just looking at the pattern structurally, this is simply not what a thriving natural system looks like. Said system, therefore, must expend massive amounts of energy to maintain itself, often expressed in the form of violence and oppression towards many of life’s forms—violence that today touches not just our ancestors, but our descendents, too. Ultimately, the design of this society reflects an ugly ignorance about living conditions, about root causes.

However, we are intelligent enough to learn that: The Life-aligned, life-conducive game is perpetual learning and self-actualizing. When we understand how to play the game well, and when we deliberately coordinate and align our activities to that infinite game (the game that is already unfolding every moment, the root game of living existence), we naturally optimize for holistically beneficial outcomes.

Understanding is accomplishment. We win by integrating our insights—by improving holistically. We all win, or nobody could be said to really win. We win by merely orienting ourselves to become active contributors and players within the infinite game that is at the heart of Life itself.

If we were to recognize the unity and compatibility of our distinct paths, imagine orchestrating elegant combinations of human and other forms of energy into beautiful, sacred-geometric forms, into meta-forms that have a higher degree of internal coherence compared to the violence that is actually the glue that keeps present-day society functioning (though it will continue to result in increasing fragmentation of said society).

In a given human brain, I characterize the experience of “satori” as a sudden neural wiring re-orientation event, an extensive shift in the cognitive structure itself, experienced as a blissful surging of light or awareness. One’s laboriously-constructed conceptual array, mapped onto the real world, suddenly gets a refreshing reconfiguration, reflecting heightened integration. The resulting experience in the human being is that the world is more unified, more peaceful… perhaps, more accurately understood.

Might we be on the brink of a collective conceptual-reorganization event, leading to increased understanding and wellbeing for all? More importantly, perhaps: can we participate in bringing this to pass?

If we were to unleash the “next level” of sophisticated, integrated organization, we would successfully be extending Life’s natural negentropy game. If we chose this orientation, we would accomplish our goal by integrating ourselves.

By aligning with these root/subtle life patterns, we are pointing to an intention toward a mastery of life (but not in the conquest sense—in the wisdom/integration sense). To demonstrate that we are intelligent enough in our development that we’d explicitly choose to align with life’s systems and patterns. (So we might be initiated into ever higher orders of consciousness—self-made, or numinous.)

I’d like to address this which is something you also alluded to on one of the last Cafes, @madrush.

This idea of organically letting those that are “good” bloom and those that are not so good wither is, to me, capitalism. Yes, there is something obvious, even “natural” about it, but alone, it causes the disaster that we are all currently in.

This simple structure is how a disparity between the “have’s” and “have not’s” begins - in our case the talented 1% and the rest.

It also calls to mind Oscar Wilde’s quip about patrons being the people who ignore you as you flail through the water only to encumber you with help once you’ve reached the shore. This is also how the Facebook algorithm and “trending” machine works.

But this is not how gardens work. All the resources and nutrients do not simply go to the Oaks, which may be the tallest but are not the most important. The ecosystem does not sacrifice the shrubs and weeds for the trees, they compliment each other. There is give and take. The Trojan War was the same and Homer knew it. The Great Warriors were nothing without their beloved team of grunts who stood at their side so that they could continue their battle-magic without fear of being broadsided or attacked from behind. And the grunts in return were lauded by the heroes who stood on their shoulders so that even as they breathed in the dirt and the muck and were crushed under their weight heard the praise and appreciation and love from those legends who used them for purchase.

A garden is yes, capitalistic, but also socialistic. It is both. Resources are devoted more to those whose leaves are big and catch more light, but not at the expense of all life beneath. That which is below is not snuffed out, it merely gets less. But it’s actualization goes on.

Obviously I have a stake in the creation of something here in Cosmos, and specifically in Writers Underground, but not simply because I have thrown my lot in with a project that is rough and raw and perhaps not yet even showing much promise, but also because I know what it is to be considered great and irrelevant, talented and a hack, gifted and a fraud, part of the chosen few and cast aside with the hoi-poloi. I have been on both sides of this capitalistic street and in it both the “chosen” and the “abandoned” suffer, perhaps the “chosen” even more, because we are sold the illusion of our “chosen-ness” by the system itself. And this illusion is catastrophic because it sublimates the collective heart in service of eros.

If Cosmos is to succeed then this congress must form ways that ALL can self-actualize, even if they offer the literary equivalent of the sea side vendor who sticks shells onto matchboxes. Her fulfillment is inextricably linked to our own. And this is where there value of relationships come in, the true currency of any system being the number and quality of your relationships within that system, which is this system, which is life.

In this spirit an idea for Writers Underground.

  1. A creator begins to produce work and shares it on a channel like - “Writers Underground Incubation Channel.” The work can be anonymous (if possible) so that artists are not burdened by the pre-conceptions of quickly developing reputations. A post can always be new, fresh. An operationalization of Zen Mind Beginners Mind.

  2. The work is perused by the “inner circle” first.

  3. If someone takes a shine to it they can request to be a Sponsor.

  4. If you are a Sponsor then you are entitled to receive a Sponsor.

  5. The Sponsor(s) are the first readers for the work and if they see fit can usher it into the next concentric circle of “Readers One,” perhaps.

  6. Once the work moves to Readers One they can offer their own suggestions but are not obliged to. This is where a work can wither, but not die, because the Sponsors and the Artist are still working with it and taking the feedback loop of the larger group into account, and one would hope to a completion.

This is the tour of duty that brings people together, that forges relationships. This is the crucible that allows for real trust, intimacy and love to grow. We must go through something challenging together. It can’t always be sunsets and champagne. We must fight and make up, cry and be consoled, make an ass of ourselves and be forgiven.

Finally, at any point a Sponsor can bow out for lack of personal interest in the work but not before 3 cycles of asking for “more” of what they wanted, or saw in the work that so attracted them in the beginning.

This must be a loving, open conversation. The artist must be put under this caring pressure. And if a sponsor does leave the project they must consciously uncouple. (I’m smiling here, but also serious). That is required as a minimum maturity for entering and leaving a relationship in a healthy way.

At that time another Sponsor can jump in, and if not, then the writer returns to offering samples to the larger group, honing his or her work / voice / content until someone else feels moved to Sponsor.


  1. An Open Submission Channel for Artists. The Project Marketplace.
  2. Sponsors Pick Projects
  3. Custom Commitments are Established. Completion is Important, Even of a Stage.
  4. As Work is Honed, Best Submissions Seep Through From Sponsors to Readers One.
  5. Readers One Determine if the Work is Good Enough to Move to Readers Two (the Open Forum).
  6. Feedback Loops in Effect at Each Stage.
  7. Nothing is guaranteed, but the system promotes the developing of relationships.

Naturally all this is up for discussion.


@ZacharyFeder thank you! I really love the ideas you share here, and the nuance you draw out. I am pleased that this matter of “what is watered with attention grows, and what does not, dies away” is being grappled with, because it deserves to be handled with great care–as do our members and their creations.

Regarding the original line with you quoted, I believe I should elaborate on my thinking there.

I believe attention is a finite yet abundant resource–like sunlight. If I am putting my attention on the Key Docs, by definition (in a given week), I cannot be applying my attention to other things. It being a scarce, yet life-giving resource, how we handle and channel it in the platform of Cosmos is of major importance.

That which attention touches, and instigates an amplifying feedback loop of attention (of “hey! I like what I see! I’m going to… [share it / give feedback / tip some coin / etc.]” will, in some way or another, “flourish” in Cosmos. For obvious example–you, commenting on this doc, drives my reciprocal response, insofar as we both care about the thing we’re discussing. This is the notion of a regenerative feedback loop of attention. The kind of amplifying, affirming generative energy is something, indeed, I think ALL beings in & around Cosmos can benefit from.

So, there is a natural scarcity built in to human attention, just as the planet Earth has a biological carrying capacity (which is largely linked to how much solar energy its living inhabitants can capture). There is some competition, therefore, for what gets attention, thus leading to an “economics” of sorts. Yet I view this as an ecological phenomenon, not a political one… Yet how we might choose to channel and direct the flow of attention through the system IS the economics we’re called to grapple with.

The aspiration is that all people could be nurtured by the platform–but you’re right on when you note that that has to come out of relationships and communities. And what kinds of “games” we design and opt into playing on the platform (such as the specific set of rules and protocol you suggest here, for Writers Underground) matter immensely to whether the life-giving energy of attention is circulating in equitable ways and leading to the empowerment of each participant in the game.

I imagine that there may be some algorithms in Cosmos that would boost content that seems to have a lot of momentum and buy-in from the community into people’s dashboard attentional streams/feeds --but that would not be the only algorithm governing what people see or what happens next with the content. (I envision a polyculture of algorithms at play that interact and sometimes amplify and sometimes cancel each other out, like the forces in an ecosystem.)

Here’s something I’d like to unpack more deeply: Is it possible that people’s artistic works may be subject to scarce resource flows (of attention), and thus may wither of drought or be watered generously and bloom… but that for the people/members of Cosmos, we could find ways to nourish all with the abundance generated by other people’s engagement on the platform? I’d like to make that distinction, because I sense that this is possible! I sense that at the social/community level, we can, as you discuss, find ways to nurture ALL from skillfully directing the surplus and generous offerings intermingling on the platform. And I think that sometimes, for an artist to be invited to let a specific offering (such as an artistic work) die or be radically reconfigured can serve as a great offering, in and of itself.

What do you think @ZacharyFeder? & what do you think, anyone else reading this thread? :slight_smile:


This is very well said, Zachary, and why I am not a therapist or a coach. I have done lots of that and find it exhausting. Most of my clients were interested in making money more than anything else in the world and it got so boring. As I live in Manhattan, as you well know, the dominant culture is all about grabbing that fifteen minutes of fame and working it. Monetizing ones’ gifts for a market built around speed is a challenge and I have decided that I will no longer feed the beast.

Sponsoring others and receiving sponsorship, especially in a group, in an online network, is a delicate experiment and I am often not sure what is happening as the feedback we get through the flat screen inevitably adds a layer of distortion. But like Jimmy Hendrix we have to ride those distortions and give them a shape, turn them into an alien music.

I am noticing with great pleasure how the Cosmos community is cross-fertilizing and becoming more self-reflexive. I have made it a point to point out a ‘shared moment’ in one of our hang outs where a dynamic reference point occurred. If enough of us pay attention to these dynamic reference points then a kind of amplification occurs that I hope will translate into some extra carrying capacity for each member for the group work that engages them beyond this community. Even awkward and off the wall moments have a potent effect when we feed it back into this garden/tapestry/cosmic opera…that’s why I have resisted the desire to edit out the awkward moment that can become if given enough care and attention a direction that is useful. The best ideas come from left field and is produced by slow and fast mind paying attention to one another.

The mean streets of NY are backdrop for me as I have turned more and more to the intense focus we each are bringing to our projects here. In some ways I know the projects we are engaged in at the moment is not the real project! I always invite people to work with a desired outcome, rather than a solution or problem because that practice often releases a lot of inhibitions around having what we want rather than manipulating events to satisfy unspoken desires which end up becoming hidden agendas and mixed messages. I also realize what a stretch it is for our collective imaginations for we simply dont always know what we really desire. Underneath the great expenditure of energy, we still are clueless.

As I recently listened to a Weird Podcast on the magical zones created in much fantasy and sci-fi I realize how suggestive that is for what I imagine is happening here in our best underground moments. Each gathering has a different quality, depending upon the stated purpose and the make up of the individuals, and also there is a sense of entering a zone of strangeness, of feeling the field effect.

I have finally found a place where I can become as weird as the occasions we find ourselves in often demands. I sense there is the presence of a collective field that we draw upon and that uses each of us for it’s own purpose. This is spookiness at a distance but I dont know what else to call it.

I apologize for the long windedness of this response as I am unable to come up with anything better. How can we be in the world, while acknowledging we are not of the world? That is always something more that never gets adequately stated and is forever out of reach.

I know there is a lot of faith in algorithms, but that is not my thing. I acknowledge however that others are gifted in that area and I am open to surprise. My deepest allegiance, however, is to the analogue, the tone of voice, the gesture, the non-verbal, the para-message, the subtext. It is hard to carry these forward into our online initiatives but that seems to be my main interest of late.

You mention success. A very big word. In Shakespeare’s day they used big concepts like Justice or Mercy. We are into Success even as the Empire is on the brink of collapse. I wonder, could we do a session focused on Success?

What in the world in the midst of the mass extinction going on around us could Success be like? I am still drawn to the concept but I am very aware that we may need an update.

Let’s keep these ideas, tensions, impasses in circulation and I am eager to contribute and learn from each of you how to pay better attention to these paradoxes. Our efforts and projects can be brought to life here, as we protect and nurture the force of our collective attention as we enter that mysterious zone. Thanks to each of us for this opportunity to reflect on our participation and our successful future(s).


I would also like to point out how much I enjoyed our group groping around the mother! movie event. It was like the sufi tale of the blind people feeling around the elephant! But at the end of the talk, in our version, everyone gets their vision restored. I actually like what we came up with, which was certainly better than I could have come up with on my own. I hope we can do more of that kind of group sponsorship around each of our best efforts. As I have mentioned before, I believe a study of what we are doing at our best ( rather than correcting each other’s mistakes and errors) creates more expressiveness and creativity and movement towards Cosmo-ethics. I appreciate your passionate cognitive commitment, Carolyn, which is often on display as we work through these complex and sometimes murky landscapes!


Thanks Johnny! I love the framing of “at our best” and encouraging that framing to permeate the Cosmos culture.

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